Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Post Grad

I am now in the land where Santa rides a fire truck giving candy to kids and dog biscuits to, erm, dogs; where banks are drive-thru, marshmallow comes in a jar and peanut butter comes on a cheesy biscuit; where the houses are sparkling with their Christmas lights and festive wreaths; where you can win $1000 for eating 105lb of meat, viagra is advertised on daytime TV and VAT is added onto consumer goods after you take it to the till.

Really, it's very beautiful here, and I am having a great time. Americans certainly know how to do Christmas.

On the flight over, I spent about 4 hours playing Bejeweled on the touch screen computer (a game that takes me back to the guilt-filled moments of procrastinating when I should have been writing my Master's thesis). I also watched some of the comedy shows on offer, and flicked through the 40 or so movies available on-flight, stopping at one called Post Grad.

Post Grad? Hmm, that phrase sounds familiar.

It's about a girl who graduates from university and finds herself unemployed and living with her parents. Oh yes, it certainly sounds familiar. Funny how I hadn't heard of the movie, but already knew the plot.

It's a truly terrible piece of cinema, with an ambling unfocused plot, neglected character development, and a love story completely lacking in chemistry. But there are some familiar moments - the misplaced confidence of graduation, the disillusionment when the degree parchment finally arrives in the post, the upturning of a life plan/the lack of life plan.

For some reason, I watched this movie not just to kill some hours while cruising over the Atlantic Ocean and floating above North-East Canada, but also with the hope that it would offer some answers to my own Post Grad questions. Why I thought that a piece of in-flight Hollywood fluff would be able to do that, I don't know. The main character gets the job of her dreams when her arch-nemesis is inexplicably sacked, and seeing as I don't hate anyone enough to have an arch-nemesis, I doubt that's going to happen to me. Back to the drawing board I guess!

A far more realistic depiction of post-graduation lounging and floundering is captured by 90s UK sitcom Spaced, which, despite its off-beat surrealism, is far too real to me for me to find it amusing any more. The Dole episode is too familiar to be truly funny.

After the movie I watched an episode of Hannah Montana. It was much more comforting and the acting was even relatively convincing, or at least entertaining.

I'm now getting my kicks out of trying to explain the uses of HP sauce to Americans (chilli-cheese dogs, fries and brown sauce is almost a complete cross-cultural experience!), visiting a Christmas tree farm, and out of sharing my Christmas traditions with another family, and long evening drives around the sprawling neighbourhoods to enjoy the Christmas decorations while listening to big band music and the Sufjan Stevens festive album. Even the bulldog ain't so bad.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Us of A

There's something I didn't tell you.

I'm sorry. I wanted to be open and honest on this blog. I didn't think it was that important, and I didn't mention it.

But now I realise that I should have told you earlier. I hope it's not too late.

I'm spending Christmas in America.

And I leave tomorrow.

I've been so busy at work (and tired afterwards) that I haven't scheduled any posts while away, so I'll try to keep up.

I have to say though, if I had been told a year ago that I would be spending Christmas 2009 in the States I wouldn't have believed it. Since finishing Uni, my boyfriend and I have both been living with our respective parents and trying to figure out how to take the next steps of our careers. We have been with each other through daily job applications, job rejections, interview nerves, interview analyses, website trawling, decision-making, and work rants. But it just so happens that we are half a world apart.

It's certainly been a strange year, and possibly about to get stranger yet... I am meeting THE parents for the first time.

Things I am afraid of:

Accidentally and inappropriately swearing like a true Scot.

My British sense of irony and sarcasm being misunderstood.

The boyfriend's pet bulldog.

Putting on weight over an American Christmas season.

That the Marmite I am taking won't be well received.

Or the Twiglets.

Or the Bird's trifle.

Or the Tetley's tea.

Or the HP sauce.

Or my quirky aunt's homemade brandy-drenched Christmas pudding.

My family's copy of the Radio Times is currently sitting on the dining room table, sadly untouched by me, because I do not need it this year.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Something to Shout about

I made a joke with Shouty Girl, and she made one back!

(So, maybe we do all judge each other too quickly. Maybe lame jokes really are what keep this world going round...

that, and the ubiquitous "weather smalltalk" topic of conversation.)

Friday, 4 December 2009

stairmaster 3000

As you will have noticed, I have had little to say about job hunting recently. That's because I am taking a break, and I've put the career search on hold for a short time. My current job is great fun (tinned pumpkin aside) and I'm also very excited to announce something else:

I have paid off my overdraft!

I am indeed back to black. As you may recall, this was the first step in my five step plan, so now I can concentrate on saving a bit of money, and (gulp) learning to drive, which I promise, promise will start in the new year.

So this, along with graduating a few days ago (woohoo!) has made it a very good week for me.

But it's difficult to see my friends in different states of post-graduation despair. I see facebook status updates, receive text messages, and have conversations with people very close to me who are struggling in dealing with this time. I hear bitter words from friends who don't know what they want to do with their lives; those who do know what they want to do but are finding it impossible to get on the career ladder; those who thought they knew but it's not quite working out.

Some of my friends have just left Universityville, and have also just begun the rite of passage of uncomfortable disillusionment that occurs in the period between Uni and starting a career. I know how it feels. I spent 2 years reading up on jobs and job hunting, because I was doing the awkward shift into entry level work while still studying. I had the panic-ridden thoughts of "what am I doing?"
"what SHOULD I be doing?"
"am I doing the right thing?"
"Is this all I am worth?"
"Why can't I get where I want to be?"
"Is this it?"
"Why didn't I do things differently? Would it have made a difference?"
"Why won't someone give me a break?"
"What else can I try?"
"If this is all I can get, why even bother?"
"Where does all my money go?"
"Why is everyone else getting better opportunities than me?"

It's difficult to know what to say back to my friends though because I can relate all too well. Practical advice is usually not what they want to hear, and empty words like "I am sure it will turn out fine" are meaningless and insincere.

Most people find their way during this horrible period. Some shake up their lives a bit, go travelling, sign on, reconsider their priorities, find their own coping mechanisms and then find a way of making money. It's not easy, and there's little to say to reassure people.

I can't pretend to be a careers expert; for a start I don't really have a career, but I do have a lot of experience of the job-hunting mill (at least more than one of my student friends who stepped inside the Uni careers centre for the first time recently and was so scared she ran away).

I already went through these thought patterns and now have a clearer idea of how things work as well as a clearer idea of where I want to be. I don't have a problem with admitting to people, or myself, that I am living with my parents and working in a deli and that my career is currently on hold. When I started my first job out of University, as a staff assistant for the government, I was thinking too much about what my next step would be. When I was studying for my MSc, I was thinking too much about what I was going to do when I finished and how I would afford to live. Panicking too much about the next step made me panic too much about the one I was currently sitting on.

There are lots of approaches to job hunting and career starting, but the one that has worked best for me so far is to take things slowly, to take things one silly step at a time. When I moved back home in September, I set myself some very small goals indeed. But as silly as these goals may seem, and no matter what happens next, achieving the first one this week has made me feel like everything is on track.